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Oxytocin

 

Explanations > Brains > Brain Chemistry > Oxytocin

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that functions as hormone and neurotransmitter that leads people into social actions that benefit their group and society rather than being solely selfish. It positively affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity and can reduce levels of social anxiety.

Discussion

There have been many studies of the effects of oxytocin, just a few of which are referenced below. Overall, it caused initial excitement as a possible treatment, but then discovered negative effects have tempered this.

Oxytocin release is stimulated in women by birth and lactation in mothers, particularly those who show more caring behavior. It also appears in fathers who are caring. (Gordon et al. 2010).

Ditzen et al (2009) found that oxytocin reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in arguing couples.

In contrast to other research which has indicated only positive effects, De Dreu et al (2010) discovered that oxytocin not only makes a person nicer to their friends, but it also makes them more aggressive towards outsiders as they act to defend the group. Other research has shown that oxytocin increases negative emotions such as envy and gloating.

See also

Ditzen B, Schaer M, Gabriel B, Bodenmann G, Ehlert U, and Heinrichs M. (2009). Intranasal Oxytocin Increases Positive Communication and Reduces Cortisol Levels During Couple Conflict. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 9, 725-7.

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